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Fact Box: Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 (AFSPA)

The AFSPA has a colonial origin. It first came as an ordinance by British in the backdrop of Quit India Movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi in 1942.

Aug 9, 2017 18:00 IST
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The Union Government on 7 August 2017 declared entire Assam state as a disturbed area under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) for one month.

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The AFSPA has a colonial origin. It first came as an ordinance by British in the backdrop of Quit India Movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi in 1942.

It was enacted in 1958 after independence to give more powers to security forces.

Under this Act, the State or the Union Government has the power to demarcate an area in the Indian Union as ‘disturbed’.

The decision of the State Government as to whether or not an area is ‘disturbed’ can be overruled by the governor or the centre.

The Act empowers the Governor of the State or Union territory to issue notification on The Gazette of India about the 'disturbed' area, following which the centre will send in armed forces for civilian aid.

Once declared ‘disturbed’, the region has to maintain status quo for a minimum of three months, according to The Disturbed Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1976.

All security forces are given unrestricted and unaccounted power to carry out their operations, once an area is declared 'disturbed'.

Even a non-commissioned officer is granted the right to shoot after an initial warning based on mere suspicion in order to 'maintain the public order'.

AFSPA was first applied to the Seven Sister States of North East India including Assam, Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland in September 1958 to stop the North Eastern States  in seceding from the Indian Union.

Presently, AFSPA is in force in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland and Jammu and Kashmir.

The act has been in force since 1980 for almost entire Manipur except Imphal.

It was imposed in Tripura as well, but was lifted by the government in May 2015.

It was also implemented in Punjab, however, Punjab in 2008 became the first state to withdraw the AFSPA from the state.

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